Category Archives: jim oberweis

>OBSERVATION: Illinois GOP about to give away another congressional seat?

>Is it possible? Can it be? Is the almost non-existent, largely irrelevant and obviously dysfunctional Illinois Republican party about to give away one of their few remaining major offices.

I am referring to the buzz in the Land of Lincoln’s 11th Congressional District that the local county chairmen have pretty much decided to give the congressional nomination to public works contractor Martin Ozinga — solely on the basis that he is as rich guy who can finance his own campaign. This obsession with a self-funder is taking on the proportions of political madness.

The appointment of a candidate was necessitated by an earlier fiasco. Seems like the hand pick guy won the nomination, then proceeded to exit rather than face the glare of public scrutiny. This left retiring Congressman Jerry Weller with egg on his face, and the local GOP bosses holding the bag.

In their myopic lust for a candidate with deep pockets, the local leaders decided that issues do not matter. Of course, philosophy has never been much of a consideration in Illinois politics. Now even electability takes a back seat to spreading around money.

After Denny Hastert blew the 14th Congressional District by imposing dairyman Jim Oberweis, a self-funding candidate with less shelf appeal than his ice cream, you would think the party operatives would want to hold on to the 11th. But noooooooo! You would think that they would notice that self-funding doesn’t necessarily lead to victory at the polls. But nooooooooo!

I really don’t know Ozinga personally. Maybe he is a splendid guy. Can’t say. However, it does not take much of a look to know his appeal to the Republican majority in the 11th will be less than enthusiastic. One might say he is unelectable. So there … I said it.

For many years, there has been a lot of “smoke” surrounding the Ozinga name. And why not? Public works and road building have operated at the underbelly of political life. It is an industry that has been associated with mob influence. Not sure why, but the boys with funny middle names seem to has a fascination with trucks. The entire sleazy public works construction business is personified by Bill “Mr. Roads-to-Riches” Cellini (pictured), the taxpayer-made mega millionaire who keeps coming up as a person of interest in various federal indictments. Ozinga, himself, will have some explaining to do regarding past business practices that have surfaced in the press.

Ozinga is the classic pay-to-play guy. Why else would this “good Republican” and his family give tens of thousands of dollars to Rich Daley. Tens of thousands of dollars to the Hispanic Democrart organization currently under investigation by the feds. Tens of thousands of dollars to the prince of pay-to-play, Governor Blagojevich. Money for Dick Durbin, Gery Chico, Paul Vallis … and on and on. My mother always counseled me that if what a person says is different than what a person does, what they DO is all that matters.

There is no amount of self-funding that will get the rock solid Republicans in the 11th District, especially the conservatives, out of their house to cast a ballot for a guy who talks like a Republican at home and then funds their most loathed political leaders at the office. It appears that Republican stay-at-homes and crossovers were a significant factor in the loss of the 14th District. They were cited as the reason Democrat candidate Debbie Halverson got more votes in the primary than did the 11th District GOP slate — and she was uncontested.

Is there a lesson to be learned here? Can the GOP learn it?

It is said that those who the gods are about to destroy, they first drive mad. If that is the case, don’t stand too close to any Illinois Republican leaders these days.

FOOTNOTE: Did you pay attention to the map of the 11th congressional district? Districts are to be “compact and concise,” according to the law. None of those old time gerrymandered misshapes, sayeth the Supreme Court. So what is that “fishhook” hanging down from the middle of the 11th? In approving a lot of politically drawn congressional maps, the high court makes a mockery of its own ruling. So, what else is new?

>REACT: Hastert loses his seat.

>Anyone who has every watched classic Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy flicks is familiar with Stan’s oft stated lament, “It’s a find mess you got us into this time, Ollie.”

Well, I say to Denny Hastert, “It’s a fine mess you got us into this time, Denny.”

You will recall from my earlier blog, I am not a great booster of the accomplishments of the former Speaker Hastert. Or shall we say, the lack there of. His allegiance to the corrupt and ineffective Illinois brand of good-ole-boy, backroom politics cost the GOP the Phil Crane seat way back when, and his own speakership along with the whole dang Congress more recently.

As if that was not enough for one career, now cometh the special election in Illinois’ 14th Congressional District –a race to replace himself. In an all too clever ploy, Hastert resigned to force a special election and presumably give a “leg up” to his anointed success. In a much more clever ploy, Governor Blagojevich called for the election to be held on a Saturday when everyone knows Republicans are at the country club playing racquet ball and debating martini mixology.

In promoting … nay … ramrodding Jim “The Milkman” Oberweis as his personal choice, Hastert must have assumed the 14th District was a “Mickey Mouse” seat for the GOP – a reference that suggests any Republican, even Mickey Mouse, would be elected. And why not, the pachyderm party has held that seat since Moses descended from Mount Ararat … uh … Mount Sinai. Ararat is where Noah beached the ark, right?. No matter. You get my point.

Actually, Oberweis is a great guy personally, but an abysmal candidate. For a variety of reasons, he has less personal shelf appeal than his ice cream. Candidates are supposed to be charmers in public and jerks in private. Oberweis has it backwards.

What makes former wrestling coach Hastert’s Olympic arm twisting on behalf of Oberweis so egregious is the fact that everyone else seemed to know that the guy is not candidate material. The previous three successive election day drubbings should have been a clue.

Looking at the numbers, it appears that defections from the GOP were as responsible for the loss as much as the advance of the Dems. He lost in the GOP precincts, including his own. Ouch! (<– I stand corrected. Bill Pascoe, of the Oberwies campaign informed me that his candidate carried his own precinct quite handsomely. My error. Ouch!)

Some say a fair share of blame has to go to the campaign team and the National Republican Congressional Committee for a poorly strategize and executed campaign. Many viewed the last minute desperation television ads as counterproductive. They seemed to seal Oberweis’ public image as a strident and pugnacious bully. There is not much worse in a campaign than spending tons of money to lose votes.

I cannot judge the culpability of the on-the-ground team and professional advisors, but those ads ended with the statement, “I am Bill Oberweis, and I approved this message.” So, I guess that is where the buck … millions of them … stops.

Because of the way this special election was (mis)handled, there is an automatic rematch in the November General Election. You know the old adage, if you do the same thing, you get the same result. There seems to be only two ways not to do the same thing. You either have Oberweiss step aside for a new candidate, or you credibly change the Oberweis persona. Note the word “credibly.” This is no simple task in the short time between now and November.

If there is to be a new candidate, it has to be a N-E-W candidate. It is not out of the realm of possibility that Hastert and Associates will use their influence to put a new brand name on the same can of peas.

When Denny left Congress, he said he would still stay active in Republican causes. I take that more as a threat than a promise. If he really wants to help the GOP, he might consider a more complete retirement.

As for Oberweis, he is a good and decent person, a great business man (love the ice cream) and a savvy investor. As far as politics is concerned, he can have a great future and do a lot of good for America… as a funder of good candidates and good causes. He can be the producer, not the leading man.

Footnote: Check out the photo of Oberweis and Hastert again. Don’t ya just love the angelic face and the halo effect? How can a face like that lose an election?